A changing mix of proposition (and people)

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.

Thomas Cook went into liquidation … Ted Baker swung from a £24.5m profit to a £23m LFL loss for the 28 weeks to August 10 … and even Aldi, with its outstanding track record of growth, saw increased levels of competition which hit operating and pre-tax profits.

Despite the sector’s travails, there are bright spots evidencing continued (and ‘smart’) investment. Retail Week recently ran a survey benchmarking the UK’s top retailers’ digital prowess. Unsurprisingly, Amazon came out top due to its strength in logistics and ecommerce. H&M – having invested heavily in digital, logistics, and technology – came second. This is an impressive performance when one considers they were 18th last year!

But what does this changing and challenging landscape mean for those financial professionals within the Retail/FMCG space? Many CEOs talk of the ongoing requirement for radical change which is also needed “under the hood”. As one said, “We also need to improve financial performance by, for example, driving greater efficiencies, operational  rigour and transformation across Finance, Treasury, Procurement, and ERP systems automation”.

From our perspective, Norman Broadbent’s Interim Management Practice has seen a significant increase in demand for Interim Finance Directors and CFOs who have the commercial gravitas to work with (often recently appointed) CEOs. Many new CEOs have commented that their inherited finance leadership team lacks agility, pace, critical stakeholder management skills, is too binary to be commercial, and lacks the radical edge needed to drive change. Their wish-list includes having a CFO who can drive business transformation, handle complex commercial modelling, and relishes ERP implementation and the automation of back office tasks! In summary, with the volatility in consumer behaviour, a strong financial accounting and adherence to good governance will not be enough.

And what does life look like from the CFOs perspective? According to our CFO network they often feel hindered by the lack of data analytics and limited commerciality within their own (often inherited) finance function. So far this year Norman Broadbent’s Interim Finance Practice saw a 62% increase in demand for Internal Auditors, Treasury, FP&A/ Data Analytics and Group Financial Controllers. This demand has been driven by many digital retailers seeing significant growth without the financial pressures of large real estate commitments. As they have grown and acquired more customers, they need to further professionalise their group finance function to get ‘future-fit’. This is particularly the case for those who have ambitions to IPO or seek significant further investment. With cost, agility, and the importance of value-add, many clients are deploying Interim Managers to drive Transformation Programmes. Besides getting the work done in a more cost-efficient, time effective, and more immediate way than costly management consultancies, Interims offer knowledge transfer and the ability to upskill incumbent staff during any transformation programme.

If you would like to find out more about Norman Broadbent Interim, and how we may support you, please contact Jonathan Stringer for an initial confidential discussion via Jonathan.stringer@normanbroadbentinterim.com